Imagine the night you are lying down and it is the time to sleep, as you prepare yourself for freshness in the next early day for an important event like the next work shift or your important presentation. It turns out that you are watching the clock and cannot fall asleep.
The study was revealed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, that 30% of American adults experienced short-term insomnia in their lives. So you are not alone.
One common cause of sleep problems is anxiety. When you feel anxiety, the stress hormone, cortisol, does not decrease for preparing sleep. Stress causes cortisol to maintain throughout the night. You lose the ability to fall asleep and meet the deep sleep. Cortisol, stress hormone, cumulates if not release it and be more harmful to your physical health in the long run.
Many sleep experts will agree that exercises may release the stress hormone, cortisol, produced by adrenaline gland, on top of kidneys. However, light-weighted exercises like walking can reduce stress, rather than heavy exercises. I would like to share my experience with relaxation techniques that could help you reach sleep mode faster.
7 Relaxation Techniques for Sleep and Stress Relief
The principles of the relaxation techniques are to switch off your anxious mind and calm down your mentality and body and turn into relaxation mode that you can fall asleep naturally. Here are seven techniques you will try by yourself and learn what works for you.
Deep Breathing Exercises – Help Sleep Naturally
As we know, breathing is the process of moving into and out of the lung by bringing in oxygen and flushing out carbon dioxide.
Deep breathing usually involves inhaling the clean air deeply and exhaling the bad air fully. When you take a deep, slow breath, you are relaxed, as oxygen flows into cells and tissues in your body. Your blood pressure can return to a normal level. Deep breathing exercises are also recommended during the day whenever you feel tired, nervous, stress, upset or depressed. The simplest breathing technique that works best for many people and I is the Box Breathing exercise.
Box breathing (also known as square or square four breathing) is a very simple breathing technique. It is a technique to take control of your breathing and help you feel calm. Three simple steps include,
- Inhale through your nose into your belly for 4-5 seconds
- Hold your breath for 4-5 seconds
- Exhale through your nose entirely
- Repeat step 1 through 3
I personally practice this technique every night when lying down on the bed. It really helps me sleep fast before I know it. You can watch the demonstration here.
Proper breathing is considered the most important practice for healthy living. Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, a healing-oriented approach to health care. He introduced The Healthy Heart Kit and Breathing: The Master Key to Self-Healing, which is a great resource for learning self-healing with breathing techniques.
One of the most renowned deep breathing technique introduced by Dr. Weil is the 4-7-8 Breathing exercise, which is slightly different from the Box Breathing. It helps promote overall health, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and improve the digestive system.
Body Scan Meditation – Help You Sleep
In general, the body scan technique involves your mental focus on each part of the body while you are lying down. Your mind’s attention will start from the left foot to sole, the heel, and the top of the foot. Then up the ankle, kneecap, thigh, arms, shoulders, and move along the face, nose ears, until the top of the head. The body scan should flow entirely on the surface and deep in your body.
When you practice the body scan, your mind is focusing on the body in various sensations in the different body parts.
The body scan technique may work for some people with insomnia. My bed partner practices this technique on a bed and it helps her sleep faster. It is good to know about and practice to calm your mind and body. You can learn more here from Diana Winston’s body scan meditation audio track for better sleep.
The guided meditation is a process that the participant responds to the guidance provided by a trained practitioner or teacher. The guidance may come in the form of music therapy, guided imagery, meditation practice, and mindfulness, for example. It involves listening to something that leads your mind away from worries and relaxes.
It is an easy and simple technique by listening to the guidance by a person or a meditation video or an audio track.
You may try samples of the Guided Meditation for Restful Sleep by Bonnie Groessl with a 22.08 minutes audio track.
Alternately, the Soaring Sleep A Guided Meditation by Jason Stephenson plays 52 minutes long.
My experience is listening to a Guided Meditation for Deep Sleep audio while lying down and closing my eyes. It helps me relax and calm. I could reach the sleep mode in 5 minutes.
You may learn more the sleep guided meditations for deep sleep here. It contains 11 audio sets from 5 minutes to 5 hours you can choose. It may be useful and work for you.
Pressure Points – Acupressure
According to the American Institute of Alternative Medicine (AAIM), when your body frequently has tension and stress, it leads to health problems and insomnia. Acupressure by pressing certain body points can release stress, reduce tension and pain, improve focus and increase productivity and overall health. AAIM suggests the 5 best acupressure points for stress relief you can learn here.
My best experience with acupressure is the point between thumb and index finger. When I have a headache due to stress, I will use my thumb and index fingers of the other hand to press the point to relieve the symptom. It also works well for migraine pain relief.
Learn more about best body pressure points for better sleep in the next article here.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique to monitor the tension in the muscle and consciously relax each specific muscle group one by one at a time. American physician Edmund Jacobson developed the PMR technique. The principle is to learn the different feeling between muscle tensions and relax, in the sense of becoming less tense and calm down.
You can practice by yourself on muscle groups when you sitting or lying down, and in the position that you feel comfortable. The practice involves the activities of muscle tension and relaxes for each muscle group.
My experience with this technique is feeling calm and relaxes, as my mentality focuses on my body tension and relaxation. You can practice by yourself during the day, and it may improve your sleep quality at night. You may learn and follow the audio guidance here.
If you practice it correctly, you will notice the different feeling between tension and relaxation and enjoy the feeling.
Massage Therapy – For a Good Night Sleep
Archaeological evidence of massage has been found in many ancient civilizations including China, India, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Mesopotamia. Body massage principally benefits three things for your body-brain controlling the whole body system, physical comfort, and improving the nervous system. Researchers have found that massage therapy increases the ability to produce melatonin, which helps sleepiness.
Massage for insomnia stimulates the body to release endorphins and serotonin, which increase the production of anti-pain chemicals. The body will experience relaxation, and it can help you fall asleep.
Message therapy requires professional help. However, an interesting self-massage tool introduced by Dr. Eric Berg may help you practice the massage by yourself. Participants in using this tool testified that it is best for back pain, body stress relief, and support for a healthy sleep cycle. Find information about the self-massage tool here.
Body Exercises – Easy Yoga Exercise Routine to help you sleep
Working or studying during the day may cause muscle tension, back pain, and stress, which can cause difficulties to fall asleep. Body exercises can help muscle relief and fall asleep faster. This technique applies easy yoga exercise routine to help you control the body and calm your mind and release tension.
Learn easy yoga poses that can help you sleep better, introduced by Crane and Canopy here.
The Final Thoughts
Some techniques work for some people and the other techniques may work for other people. You may try to experience which technique works for you. The deep breathing technique works very well with many people for relaxation and gets to sleep faster. Guided meditation and body scan techniques are also best for people with high stress and depression, as the techniques will help you turn your mind to focus on things that can calm you down and relax. Acupressure technique is popular these days, as it effectively helps improve overall health. Massage therapy requires help from professional or you may use a self-massage tool of Dr. Berg, which is very convenient.
I wish you have better sleep! If you have comments or questions, you can leave the notes below. I will be pleased to hear from you.